The oldest new woodland on earth: Recognising, mapping, naming and narrating the great western woodlands1

Alexandra Vlachos, Andrea Gaynor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The Great Western Woodlands (GWW) cover an area of 160,000 km2 of largely intact semi-arid woodland in inland south-western Australia. The highly biodiverse GWW is a large-scale ecosystem and a refuge for native species endangered elsewhere, but faces many challenges, including poor fire management, mining and mining exploration impacts, proposed clearing for agriculture, introduced species and climate change. This paper traces the way in which stories about the region have powerfully shaped different groups' dealings with it. In Western Australia, settler society's long-standing focus on the agricultural zone of the Wheatbelt and the mineral wealth of the goldfields as 'productive' landscapes produced a dominant narrative about conquering nature, physical labour and economic wealth that marginalised the ecologies and First Peoples of the GWW. More recently, a network of local settler and Indigenous people, NGOs, scientists and conservationists have begun to produce a new narrative with the cultural and natural values of the woodland at its heart, as a foundation for better understanding, managing and protecting the GWW. Reflecting on the historical framing of a particular region reveals the important cultural-ecological work performed by regional narratives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-144
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Review of Environmental History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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